The idea of traipsing around the Fish River canyon in the heat and the dust did not seem appealing to our good friend Simon. But now, upon reflection, he looks back and smacks himself for even thinking of passing up the opportunity to see one of the great wonders of the African continent.
He writes: ” My initial reluctance was purely down to ignorance. My idea of Namibia was that of dusty flatness and German accents. And whilst it is true that there are large parts of the country that are flat and dusty and some of the inhabitants do speak in an accent befitting its colonial past, Namibia is a very special place; it’s rugged, yet simply beauty hypnotic and enduring.
My introduction to accommodation in Namibia must be one of the world’s quirkiest destinations – the Canyon Roadhouse. A rusty old (and I mean OLD) abandoned car and a quiver tree on the side of a dusty road direct you to a restaurant and hotel like no other I had ever been to. Modelled on the desert motels in a bygone era of western America, one could be excused for expecting to find a John Ford movie character behind the counter or Thelma and Louise filling up their getaway vehicle at the gas pump.
I just loved it. Cleverly created by director Mannfred Goldbeck, the Canyon Road House is littered with half covered wrecks of vintage cars, broken windmills and abandoned broken down tractors. I found it so much fun it made me miss my childhood.
The surrounding desert is desolate and stark, punctuated by quiver trees and ‘koppies’. We were in the Gondwana Canyon Park is in the south of Namibia not far from the border with South Africa. The Road House is about 15 kilometres from the Fish River Canyon and a great place to rest a weary head after the long drive up from Cape Town.
We were there for a four day hike into the canyon, along with some guides and a geologists. Before we set off though, Mannfred took us to the edge so that we could shoot some photographs. Wow.
I was simply astounded as I stood on the precipice of this natural phenomenon that is so expansive, so vast and so oddly stirring. It is also rather strange to me that this remains a largely unheralded attraction, but this may be a good thing. The chance of bumping into another soul anywhere in or on the canyon are as remote as the canyon itself.
Our three day amble into the canyon began with a gentle decent through a deep chasm just after sunset, although by then it was already sticky and hot. We gently toddled along a seasonal tributary of the Fish River, gratefully splashing in and out at various intervals before making our way to the Leeuwen Camp, our spot for the night. our first night camp. Tents had been pitched on a grassy bank up against the sheer vertical wall of a sandstone ziggurat. The black night sky in the stillness of the canyon was so romantic it was almost cheesy, as if painted by some set decorator called Ralph.
The next day we dawdled on in the relentless heat before eventually making our way to the top of the canyon to our camp, perched very high on the rim of a bend in the canyon. Our night’s camp was a slightly more structured with a dining room and a shower with a view that is surely unmatched in the world.
Echo Camp further along was set up on two broad ledges of ancient golden sandstone. On the upper shelf, a table was laid for our evenings feast whilst our outdoor camp below on the river side. After three days in the canyon this was blissfully relaxing.
It was our final evening in the canyon and the fire side chat was all about returning to this wonderful place. Unanimously, we all wanted to return.